Recent Submissions

  • "Equitable Environmental Literacy: Investigating Interventions to Increase Environmental Literacy among BIPOC Students "

    Kara, Jillian; Coleman, Kimberly; Walls, Leon; Alldred, Mary (2022-05-05)
    The theme of my poster is Equitable Environmental Literacy among BIPOC students. Environmental literacy has four main components, knowledge, affective attitudes, cognitive skills, and behavior. There is currently inequitable education occurring within natural resources. There is an increasing need to create an environmentally literate society that is prepared to address demanding and emerging environmental issues worldwide. Educational programming is not equipping BIPOC communities with the knowledge to participate in planning, management, and decision making processes. At its core, this is environmental injustice. To further investigate gaps in natural resources, we created a survey to measure student interest in the environment. A pilot survey was conducted during the summer of 2021 and UB students from both PSU and UVM were surveyed on pre-watershed science initiatives. We hypothesized that BIPOC students were less likely to select “agree” and “strongly agree” when answering questions related to having an environmental job and pursuing environmental education in college. The surveys were conducted via google forms and the students identity was kept anonymous. We then combined all answers into a large data set and the analysis was conducted in R. We created bar graphs which show each question asked and the breakdown of the student demographics. The pilot survey indicated that BIPOC students did not rate “agree” or “strongly agree” when answering the questions “I plan to study the environment in college” and “I plan to work in an environmental field”. This further validates current research that indicates BIPOC students are less likely to pursue environmental interests. The next steps in this research are to conduct the same survey during the summer of 2022. During the summer, students will participate in a wide variety of watershed science initiatives. It is our hope that this will stimulate natural resource interest among students in the program.
  • Effects of Landscape Context on Painted Turtle Population Structure in Northern New York

    Garneau, Danielle; Mahoney, Ian; Morgenroth, Rhiannon; Gennosa, Katherine "Ky"; Garneau, Danielle (2022-12-11)
    Painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) are a widely distributed freshwater turtle common in northern New York wetlands. Turtles provide ecosystem services that include redistributing nutrients, dispersing seeds, serving as prey to predators, and modifying wetland habitat. With ongoing threats due to climate change, disease, and losses in wetland habitat, painted turtle population health can reflect ecosystem health. We aimed to evaluate demographic and microbiome trends among painted turtle populations along an urbanization gradient in northern New York. In fall 2022, we set 10 hoop traps for 3 consecutive days at both an urban (Barracks golf course), Plattsburgh, NY and rural (Lake Alice Wildlife Management Area, Chazy, NY site. Following established Ecological Research as Education (TurtlePop 2.0) protocols. Gender and age structure of each individual was determined and each was uniquely marked using carapace scute notching techniques. We also evaluated Salmonella sp. presence on turtle’s at each pond by collecting both carapace and cloacal swabs. Site-specific characteristics were also noted at each pond including abundance of basking sites, pond area, water and air temperatures, pH, and conductivity. The greater abundance of turtles at the urban site could be explained by the presence of plentiful basking logs. Contrary to our hypotheses both urban and rural sites are female and adult skewed, which could be explained by site-specific mesopredator guild differences. Morphologically there were no major size differences noted between the urban and rural populations. Additionally, there were no significant differences in water quality between the pond complexes. Painted turtle carapace and cloacal microbiomes were dominated by Pseudomonas sp. and no salmonella bacteria were detected via Sanger sequencing. More long-term research needs to be done in order to determine the effects of urbanization on painted turtle populations as our findings appear in line with findings of the EREN network, but contrary to those of the larger body of turtle conservation research.
  • Comparing Herpetofauna Microbiome Diversity Across Northern New York

    Garneau, Danielle; Lorenzetti, Owen; Monroe, Gabrielle; Stone, Riley; Garneau, Danielle; Lester, Sara (2022-12-11)
    Several threats to herpetofaunal species such as habitat loss and the increase of diseases have decreased their global populations. Climate change is projected to shift many species of plants and animals into cooler regions. Within the last century there has been an ~80% decline in species due to habitat loss, climate change, and disease. Most notably is chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which keratinized the skin of herpetofauna. Microhabitat complexity is linked to their microbiome diversity and fitness. Our study was designed to evaluate the influence of both macro- and microhabitat on herpetofaunal epidermal microbiome. At three sites (Rugar Woods, Paul Smiths Visitor’s Interpretive Center, and Lewis Preserve Wildlife Management Area), we surveyed herpetofauna using hand capture techniques and collected microbial samples by swabbing the skin of individuals. Bacteria were plated to determine morphotype richness and serial dilutions were made in order to isolate the most prominent colonies. Microbial DNA was extracted, followed by a 16s rRNA polymerization chain reaction (PCR), and Sanger sequencing to confirm microbial species. Herpetofauna epithelial microbiome included Serratia sp., Pantoea sp., Pseudomonas sp., and Sphingobacteria. Herpetofaunal richness was the same across all macro-sites (S=3), with red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) being ubiquitous and spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum), leopard frogs (Lithobates pipiens), spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer), American toads (Anaxyrus americanus), and garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) being rare. The most common microhabitat under which herpetofauna were found was coarse woody debris (CWD) and in terms of silviculture, single tree cuts and control sites had more animals than did other treatments such as clearcuts. Bacterial morphotype richness was greatest at Lewis Preserve and among red-backed salamanders and leopard frogs. Our bacterial species were common to herpetofaunal microbiomes and many support antifungal activity. Our findings suggested that a minimally managed wildlife management area with mature mixed forest, extensive floodplain, and riparian edge will support a diverse herpetofaunal community with high bacterial morphotype richness, affording greater defense against disease.
  • Assessing Small Mammal Richness and Abundance Following Wildfires

    Garneau, Danielle; Bargabos, Meghan; Cooper, Shannon; Hart, Zach; Garneau, Danielle (2022-12-01)
    As with all disturbance, wildfire transforms the abiotic and biotic features of the landscape. The Altona Flat Rock is a globally rare sandstone pavement pine barrens ecosystem dominated by an overstory of Pinus banksiana (jack pine) and understory of ericaceous shrubs including Vaccinium augustifolium (blueberry). In summer 2018, a wildfire burned approximately 225 hectares of the jack pine barrens, a fire-dependent ecosystem. The small mammal community provides essential ecosystem services as seed predators, dispersers, and as prey for higher trophic levels. We aimed to determine the abundance and diversity of the small mammal community at two sites, specifically 1) the recent 2018 wildfire versus 2) a regenerated forest that burned in 1957. As part of an on-going mark-recapture study at the Flat Rock, small mammal live trapping was conducted over a six-week period in fall 2022. Each individual was uniquely marked with an ear tag and body metrics (length, weight) and gender were collected. Data from the 2022 field season was combined with previous years which showed that the small mammal abundance has declined over time and the reference (1957) site had higher community diversity including insectivores, while the recent burn (2018) had a higher overall abundance of the dominant generalist Peromyscus sp.. Results from this on-going study, can inform more effective management strategies in fire-dependent ecosystems by optimizing small mammal habitat and benefiting the ecosystem as a whole to better support the larger wildlife community and regenerating forest.
  • Microplastics in Lake Champlain Fishes: Characterization and New Techniques

    Garneau, Danielle; Sinisgalli, Angelo; Garneau, Danielle (2022-12-01)
    Microplastics, defined as being <5mm in size, have been recently identified as marine pollutants of significant concern. Concerns have arisen due to their persistence, ubiquity and potential to alter physiology and behavior that reduces reproduction and survival. As this is an emerging threat, the potential damage posed by microplastics to freshwater ecosystems has not yet been fully investigated and best practices for characterization are being developed. The purpose of this study was to learn the process of microplastics characterization in Lake Champlain and pilot the use of Nile red stain for quantification. In fall 2022, I dissected three fish (2 tench (Tinca tinca), 1 rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus)), isolated microplastics using wet peroxide oxidation, and characterizing them under the microscope. All particulate in fish were characterized as microfibers of small size (125-355um). Fiber load in tench, a larger fish, was 26% greater than that of rudd. Moving forward we plan to record this process for educational purposes and further develop a Nile Red staining procedure to expedite microplastic quantification.
  • Biota of Chazy Lake: The Legacy of Invasive Species and other Abiotic Stressors

    Garneau, Danielle; Mordecki, Kolby; Kotezle, Andrea Grace; Garneau, Danielle (2022-12-01)
    Freshwater systems are threatened with poor water quality and invasive species, affecting their overall health. Chazy Lake is an oligotrophic impounded freshwater lake in Clinton County, New York approximately 1,800 acres in size and surrounded by mountains. Invasive species have become an increasing threat to the lake and include Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), Chinese mystery snail (Cipangopaludina chinensis), and northern pike (Esox lucius). Abiotic stressors, such as road salt, are also major concerns. Over the course of four weeks in fall 2022, we surveyed the lake for fish and turtle community composition. At each site, hoop traps (n=2 minnow, n=1 turtle) were set at two reference (South Inlet, Pump station) and two disturbed (Dam, Seine Bay) sites. We created a Survey123 project to remotely georeference sites, curate images, and answer form questions. Water samples were collected to evaluate abiotic factors such as conductivity and pH. The species richness of the fish community was 5 and included 17 individuals including creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus), pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus), rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris), brook stickleback (Culaea inconstans), and yellow perch (Perca flavescens). Our hypothesis was not entirely supported as the majority of our fish were caught at the pump station (n=10) and disturbed Seine Bay (n=7) sites. None of the fish surveyed displayed disease phenotypes and no turtles were observed. Abiotic factors were surprising, as high conductivity (512 uS/cm) levels aligned with the Seine Bay, a site adjacent to a major roadway, while other sites averaged (94 uS/cm). Water chemistry revealed similar pH levels across sites 7.28-7.75. Non-profit organizations are addressing these threats with management efforts including lake drawdowns and seasonal watermilfoil removal. Long-term water quality monitoring has afforded residents opportunities to discuss alternatives and ways to minimize use of road salt. The lack of fish and turtles found in Chazy Lake may be just one sign of on-going threats associated with invasive species and pollution.
  • Wingin’ It: A Survey of Bat Populations in Varying Habitats in Northern New York

    Garneau, Danielle; Bushey, Devan; Doell, Caley; Steckler, Eric; Garneau, Danielle (2022-12-01)
    Bats are taxonomically and ecologically diverse species who provide many ecosystem services. They are also sensitive to many anthropogenic stressors (e.g., urbanization, water quality, changes in climate), so changes in bat populations have historically been early sentinels of disturbance, facilitating focused conservation efforts. Unfortunately, following the introduction of white-nose syndrome (WNS) in 2006 in New York, the nation has seen variable but drastic declines in bat populations. The relationship between bats and their habitats is not well understood because they are wide-ranging and require multiple critical habitat types, but research is needed in order to meet conservation targets. In fall 2022, we assessed the abundance and diversity of bat species between forested, rural, and urban habitat types in northern New York. Each site was surveyed once using an ultrasonic bat detector thirty minutes after sunset, the most active feeding time for bat species. We hypothesized that bat abundance would be highest in the urban setting, with infrastructure providing increased roosting opportunity. However, highest species abundance and richness were both found at the forested site, likely because it was surveyed the earliest in the season. It was also the route with the most suitable habitat based on prior research suggesting bats need water for feeding and forests for roosting. The forested and rural sites showed 28.6% similarity, the rural and urban sites showed no similarity, and the forested and urban sites had 50% similarity. Understanding the disproportionate value that forest habitats provide for bat populations, we suggest considering conservation efforts which prioritize these ecosystems and link them to important riparian corridors.
  • Assessing Plethodon cinereus (Red-backed Salamander) Skin Microbiome Differences Across Northern NY

    Wojotowecz, Chase; Bricetti, Luke; Ankrah, Nana Y. D.; Garneau, Danielle (2022-08-24)
    The role of global climate change in increasing the prevalence of amphibian disease, including chytridiomycosis, is well known. The skin microbiome is considered an important component of the amphibian immune system. Specific bacterial taxa and high skin microbial diversity are factors that are known to boost amphibian disease resistance. In this study, we explored the impact of environmental conditions on Plethodon cinereus (Red-backed Salamander) skin microbial abundance and diversity at a variety of different sites in New York’s North Country. We surveyed P. cinereus specimens from 5 sites varying in elevation and dominant vegetation type. Salamander skin microbiomes were subsequently sampled via sterile swab, plated and characterized by visual inspection of colony morphology. We performed DNA extractions and PCR to prepare samples for genetic sequencing to determine bacterial species identity. In total, 31 unique bacterial taxa were collected from the 5 sites. The highest and lowest bacterial diversity were observed at the Paul Smiths’ Visitor Interpretive Center’s Forest Ecosystem Research and Demonstration Area (FERDA) sites single tree and control silviculture stands, respectively. Beta diversity tests also indicated that the skin microbial communities at these 2 sites were most similar to each other and noticeably different from that of the Altona Flat Rock and Rugar Woods sites. These results indicate that site conditions are important determinants of P. cinereus skin microbial community diversity patterns. Although the identity of bacterial species (pathogenic, non-pathogenic) are yet to be confirmed, this study has added support to the concept that environmental conditions alter salamander skin microbiomes, which in turn can influence salamander disease resistance.
  • Oh deer, what do we have here? Monitoring stand and landscape-level changes in wildlife habitat use in northern New York

    Cave, Hannah; Rascoe, Liam; Garneau, Danielle; Lesser, Mark (2022-08-24)
    Forest composition and structure is a primary determinant of wildlife community patterns. However, disturbances such as selective harvesting, wildfires, and maple-sugaring operations, along with seasonal changes in habitat, may also influence wildlife species richness and abundance at the landscape-level. The Altona Flat Rock, a sandstone pavement barrens, contains Pinus rigida (Pitch Pine)- and Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine)-dominated forest types nested within the largely northern hardwood dominated landscape of upstate New York. Sections of these forest types have undergone recent disturbance (i.e., wildfire in the Jack Pine, maple sugaring and harvest in the northern hardwoods), changing structure and/or composition in those areas. The objective of this study was to evaluate wildlife habitat use over time and space across these adjacent, but very different, forests. Since spring 2018, we have used game cameras to continuously monitor wildlife in the hardwood-dominated forests surrounding the Flat Rock (n = 12). Concurrently, we have also been monitoring wildlife use in the Pitch Pine (n = 4) and Jack Pine barrens (n = 8). The most ubiquitous herbivore across all 3 sites was Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer), while Canis latrans (Eastern Coyote) and Lepus americanus (Snowshoe Hare) were most abundant in the Jack Pine forest type. Interestingly, Sciurus carolinensis (Gray Squirrel) and Sciurus vulgaris (Red Squirrel) were found almost exclusively in either the hardwood or Jack Pine forests, respectively, suggesting differences in dietary needs/preferences. Species richness varied dramatically across forest types, with northern hardwood, Jack Pine, and Pitch Pine richness values of 20, 31, and 2, respectively. Disturbance in the Jack Pine stand initially decreased richness, however, over the duration of the study there was little difference between the disturbed (26 species) and undisturbed (22 species) Jack Pine stands. We have observed slightly lower species richness in the mature hardwood forest (13 species) versus the young hardwood forest (19 species). Further analysis will determine temporal (seasonal and diel) wildlife diversity patterns. This study will provide wildlife and forest managers insights into the influence of forest type, and impacts of disturbance and management practices, on wildlife habitat.
  • Post Outbreak Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar) Egg Mass Survey in Northern New York

    Imm, Kaila; Garneau, Danielle (2021-05)
    Gypsy moths (Lymantria dispar) are an invasive species whose initial spread centered in Massachusetts and quickly advanced throughout the Northeast before reaching the mid-Atlantic, Michigan, and Wisconsin. These large-scale defoliators serve as a cyclical wave of disturbance with varying annual intensity and periodic peak years. Gypsy moth management is stage-specific, so understanding the life cycle is essential in order to facilitate the best management practices. In spring 2021, I surveyed gypsy moth egg mass densities in forested areas within Clinton and Essex County New York to determine if pest outbreak thresholds were met in the region. Across nine sites, which included local landowner properties, state parks, and wildlife management areas, I followed the NYS DEC egg mass sampling protocol. At each site, four plots were established and metrics collected included tree species, tree diameter, bark texture, and egg mass abundance and vertical distribution. Threshold infestation levels were met in five of the nine sites and Wickham Marsh forest was the most heavily infested. The most impacted trees were eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) and northern red oak (Quercus rubrum), specifically those individuals with an average diameter of 44.7 cm and vertically cracked bark. The data collected in this survey will inform regional biologists of more heavily damaged forests and land owners in order for them to develop a management plan for gypsy moths in the North Country.
  • Small Mammal Community Response to Wildfire at the Altona Flat Rock Sandstone Pavement Barren

    Garneau, Danielle; Hendrick, Michala; Darienzo, Lauren; Farr, Emily; Epifaino, Alex; Garneau, Danielle (2021-03-17)
    The Altona Flat Rock is a sandstone pavement barren, dominated by the fire-dependent species known as Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine). Changes in seed availability, understory structure, and predator presence influence wildlife migration within the barren. Additionally, small mammal abundance often fluctuates cyclical in response to tree masting. In July 2018, a wildfire occurred at the Flat Rock pine barren. We aimed to monitor small mammal response to wildfire over the course of a year. Small mammal traps were set along established transects capturing the fire severity gradient and adjacent reference unburned area. Along those same transects, giving up density surveys (GUDS) were performed to foraging patterns in these varied microhabitats. We predicted greater capture rates and community diversity in the burn immediately post-fire due to access to the abundant serotinous Jack Pine seeds. In fall 2018 immediately following the wildfire, a total of 67 small mammals were captured with 1.5 times more in the unburned than burned area. The small mammal community consisted of Peromyscus spp. comprising 87% of captures and insectivores Sorex cinereus (Masked Shrew) and Blarina brevicauda (Northern Short-tailed Shrew) were absent from the burn. In fall of 2019, a total of 21 small mammals were captured with 3 times more in the burn than in unburned area. Community composition was exclusively Peromyscus spp. Over the course of a year, we noted a significant reduction in captures and a shift in microhabitat usage from unburned (2018) to burn (2019) likely in response to regenerating vegetation ameliorating predation risk. Interestingly, average body mass and total body length were higher in Peromyscus spp. in 2019, perhaps in response to increased seed predation. GUD survey results show seed foraging was 67% greater in 2018. Collaborators monitoring game cameras at the barren noted increased predator use of the unburned and burned areas in winter 2018 and spring 2019, respectively and a significant decline of predators from the area in late summer-fall 2019. A predator decrease in fall 2019 is paralleled with a significant decline in Peromyscus spp. This preliminary research has revealed the complexity of small mammal response to wildfire. Long-term monitoring will likely uncover their connection to resources, microhabitat structure, and predator abundance as regeneration continues.
  • Non-invasive Monitoring of Nest Boxes

    Johnson, Kaylee; Garneau, Danielle (2020-05-05)
    Nest boxes are an important wildlife management tool which have proven successful in long-term recoveries of waterfowl and other species. Previous studies have shown that flying sqquirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus and G. volans) communally nest in these boxes in northern New York. We sought to monitor wildlife occupancy in nest boxes using non-invasive technologies including cameras and acoustic devices. Between 2019-2020, nest boxes were monitored at the recently burned Altona Flat Rock Forest in northern New York. GoPro cameras were mounted to telescoping poles to check nest boxes for occupancy and other wildlife sign. Later in the survey, goPros were mounted to the boxes for overnight visual and acoustic sampling. Concurrent acoustic sampling was performed using a smartphone enabled bat detector (Echo Meter Touch 2), as studies have shown flying squirrel vocalizations fall in the detectable range of many bat species. Monitoring revealed sign of wildlife (e.g., nests, debris, scat) in nest boxes erected in the burn site. In addition, acoustic data confirmed the presence of a species of concern in our region, the eastern whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferus) who are known to have strict habitat needs involving open forests and a dense understory to protect nests from predators. This research has offered a window into the potential success wildlife professionals might have using alternative survey methods (e.g., technology) when monitoring sensitive species.
  • Examining the Presence of Microplastic in Wastewater-Derived Soil Amendment

    Koritkowski, Carlee; Garneau, Danielle (2020-05-05)
    There is growing research on the impact of microplastics in terms of uptake in consumer products (e.g., sea salt, bottled/tap water, beer, mussels, fish, and soil amendments). Studies have shown that wastewater effluent and biosolids are potential pathways for microplastics to enter marine, freshwater, and terrestrial environments. Some soil amendments derive from the bacterial mats associated with wastewater processing and are potential pathways of microplastics via soil runoff into surrounding waterbodies. The presence of microplastics in these ecosystems impacts food webs at varying trophic levels and contributes to the persistence of microplastics in the environment. We examined a wastewater-derived soil amendment for microplastics using standard characterization methods. Quantification of microplastics following distilled water hydration of 82g of soil amendment yielded 69 particles. These particulate were primarily fibers (69%) and foams (19%), with lesser films (4%), beads (4%), and fragments (3%). The majority were smaller (125-355um) fiber particles. A standard bag of this soil amendment is 14515g with coverage of 232m2. The average-sized lawn in the United States is approximately 911m2, resulting in the potential to contribute 330,240 particles into soil and ultimately adjacent waterways. Next steps have begun to streamline this process by adopting the wet peroxide oxidation digestion method in an attempt to reduce organic matter. Nile red staining is a recently introduced method that effectively binds to plastic and is visualized using ultraviolet light. Microplastic researchers have developed automated (MP-VAT) software to streamline microplastic quantification and characterization in conjunction with Nile red staining procedures. We aim to incorporate this new approach and evaluate best practices in microplastic quantification and characterization of wastewater-derived soil amendments, as their potential ecosystem consequences are broad. It is important to continue elucidating pathways of these emerging persistent pollutants.
  • Camera trap monitoring of wildlife following a wildfire at the Altona Flat Rock forest

    Jaeger, Tristan; Adams, Matthew; Staats, Lloyd; Garneau, Danielle; Lesser, Mark (2020-05-05)
    Forest disturbance can drastically alter wildlife habitat (i.e., cover, forage and prey abundance). Response of wildlife to disturbance events, particularly the timing involved in returning to pre-disturbance conditions, are important aspects of overall ecosystem recovery and resilience. Here, we study wildlife occurrence and usage patterns following a disturbance at a sandstone pavement pine barren in northern NY. This site is dominated by Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine) with an understory largely comprised of Vaccinium angustifolium (Low-bush Blueberry) and Gaylussacia baccata (Huckleberry) serving as a major wildlife resource and fuel for this fire-dependent system. In July 2018, ~220ha of this forest was burned in a wildfire. In fall 2018, eight game cameras were installed along transects traversing a gradient of burn severity as well as an adjacent unburned reference area. Annual and seasonal abundances, and diel wildlife activity were characterized using the camTrap package in R Studio. Over the course of the study, overall species richness in the unburned and burned areas were differed (n= 15 and n= 13 respectively), though total occurrences were higher in the unburned (n = 361) than in the burned area (n = 480). Common species captured on the barren include Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer), Lepus americanus (Snowshoe Hare), and Tamiasciurus hudsonicus (Red Squirrel) which more prevalent in the unburned, while Canis latrans (Coyote) were more common in the burned area. Seasonal trends in wildlife abundance show a clear benefit to being in the unburned area in fall through winter 2018 as it provides resources and hiding cover. In spring, wildlife increased activity within the regenerating burn which remained in high use until summer-fall 2019. Interestingly, Coyote’s use of burned and unburned areas tracks that of their Snowshoe Hare prey and is most pronounced in the burn during spring. At the barren, Snowshoe Hare and Coyote behave nocturnally as compared the diurnal activity of White-tailed Deer. In the unburned area, Coyote appear to shift activity to capture the morning peak of Deer. Further long-term monitoring will elucidate how wildfire affects wildlife community composition, abundance, and distribution on the Altona Flat Rock sandstone pavement barren.
  • Impacts on the growth of Sweet Corn (Zea Mays) exposed to plastic weed fabric and soil amendment with and without earthworms

    Lee, Linh; Gomez, Isabel; Garneau, Danielle (2020-05-05)
    Agricultural practices, such as farm field application of sewer sludge or use of plastic weed fabrics may impact yield of crop plants. Numerous studies have documented the presence of microplastics in wastewater treatment plant effluent and sludge and have noted negative impacts on terrestrial and aquatic organisms. Plastic mulch and weed fabrics are increasingly more common in small-scale farming and over time will degrade into finer microplastic particulate. Both plastic sources have the potential to leach residues into soils and adjacent waterbodies, with potential impacts on both plants and wildlife. Earthworm bioturbation has the potential to redistribute microplastics even deeper into the soils as they consume and lay castings. We established a greenhouse experiment to examine the effects of farming-associated plastics on Sweet Corn (Zea mays) in the presence of Red Worms (Eisenia foetida). We sowed 4 corn seeds per pot across 5 treatments (control, macroplastic, microplastic, amendment 1mm, amendment 355um) with 6 replicates per treatment and lined and covered the pots with screening. Once plants were established (13 days), two Red Worms were introduced to three pots across all treatments. Plant height was measured weekly and upon harvest, stem diameter, leaf abundance, and weights were obtained. Preliminary results suggest that the amendment hastened the date of first germination (6 days post-planting). All plants germinated in 1mm amendment and macroplastic, whereas minimum (88%) germination was observed in 355um amendment and microplastic treatments. There was a statistical difference in the height of Sweet Corn after a week with the tallest plants deriving from the 1mm amendment treatment (p = 0.037, F = 2.643, df = 119). This study serves to help elucidate the complex interactions of microplastic and soil-dwelling organisms on yield of crop plants. Our results will inform farmers and land managers about avoiding techniques that will potentially increase plastics inputs into ecosystems.
  • Natural History Interpretation of Rugar Woods

    Gray, Stephanie; Krech, Jennifer; Domenico, Joshua (2019-05)
    Rugar Woods Interpretive Nature Trail is a <1mile loop in the woods behind the SUNY Plattsburgh fieldhouse. The trail meanders along a stream and provides natural history learning opportunities in the form of 23 interpretive signs, each with interactive QR codes to learn more with online supplemental materials. This nature trail is a collaboration of SUNY Plattsburgh students and faculty and was made possible by funding from a student-subsidized Green Fee granted through the Campus Committee For Environmental Responsibility and the Lake Champlain Basin Program's Champlain Valley Natural Heritage Program.
  • A Survey of Microplastic Pollution from Wastewater Treatment Plant Effluent Within the Lake Champlain Basin

    Le Tarte, Lucas; McCauley, Nathaniel; Moriarty, Melissa; Lee, Erin; Buksa, Brandon; Niekrewicz, Thomas; Garneau, Danielle (2019-05)
    Microplastics are an emerging and ubiquitous pollutant. Recent studies suggest that consumer care products and laundering of synthetic garments are major sources of microplastics. Most current wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) technologies are limited in their ability to remove particulate <5mm in size and pose a threat to aquatic organisms. Since 2013, we have been surveying WWTP post-treatment effluent samples with the city of Plattsburgh, NY (N = 61), in 2016 we brought online St Albans, VT (N = 64), Ticonderoga, NY (N = 42), and Burlington, VT (N = 21), and in 2017 Vergennes, VT (N = 20). Post-treatment effluent samples derive from 24 hour plant sampling events and were processed using wet peroxide oxidation methods. All samples were characterized based on the type of microplastic (e.g., fragment, fiber, pellet, film, foam), size, and color, as well as polymer type using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). Plant-specific characterization revealed fibers were the most common microplastic in Vergennes (55%) and Ticonderoga (39%), as compared to foam (52%) in St. Albans, fragments (43%) in Plattsburgh, and similar proportions of fragment and films (31%) in Burlington. Estimated output of microplastic particles per day were: Plattsburgh (n = 14,972), St. Albans (n = 28,620), Burlington (n = 19,806), Ticonderoga (n = 10,544), and Vergennes (n = 576). Additionally, polymer type varied by plant and included HDPE, PVA, and styrene. Differences likely reflect plant characteristics, for example Plattsburgh and Burlington serve a similar sized population and have a similar capacity, the difference in particle abundances may be due to varied infrastructure updates. In addition, St. Albans and Vergennes have tertiary treatment; however dates of recent upgrades vary. Microplastic pollution is a concern when we account for plant 24 flow rate and lakewide distribution. Microplastics have the potential to adsorb harmful chemicals residing in the water and pose risk to aquatic organisms and human health. By documenting wastewater treatment plants as a source of microplastics, we can share these findings with plant operators, lake stewards, government officials, and work towards solutions both up and downstream.
  • Wildlife Response to Wildfire at the Altona Flat Rock Pine Barren in Northern NY

    Adams, Matthew; Staats, Lloyd; Garneau, Danielle; Lesser, Mark (2019-05)
    In July of 2018, approximately 221 hectares of forest were burned in a wildfire at a sandstone pavement barren in Altona NY. Forest overstory is predominantly Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine) and Betula lenta (Black Birch), whereas understory is comprised of ericaceous shrubs and Pteridium aquilinum (Bracken Fern). Within weeks of the burn, Jack Pine’s sertoninous cone seeds had germinated and regeneration of fern stolons and birch stump sprouts appeared. We sought to monitor wildlife in response to forest regeneration at the sandstone pavement barren burn as compared to a reference (unburned) site. For this study, eight game cameras were installed along transects traversing the burn intensity gradient. Game cameras were equally distributed across the burn and reference sites and remained unbaited. Diel wildlife activity was made possible using camTrap package in R Studio, which organizes image files according to metadata (e.g., time, temperature, species) and facilitates interpretation. Species recorded in the burn sites were, Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer), Canis latrans (Eastern Coyote), Leporidae (Rabbit family), Lynx rufus (Bobcat), Procyon lotor (Raccoon), and Pekania pennanti (Fisher). In addition to these species, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus (Red Squirrel), Sciurus carolinensis (Gray Squirrel) and Bonasa umbellus (Ruffed Grouse) were observed in the reference but not the burn sites. In fall 2018, species richness was greater (n = 9) on the reference versus the burn sites (n = 6). In addition, there was greater wildlife abundance (n = 98) at the reference versus the burn sites (n = 44). Diel activity differed for some species between sites, in particular White-tailed Deer activity was crepuscular at the reference site, with activity peaks at both 8am and 6pm, as compared to a single longer duration morning activity bout on the burn. Biodiversity typically responds positively to wildfire in response to regeneration; however this was not observed in the first season following the disturbance. Continued monitoring of wildlife in response to wildfire may reveal differing patterns as the forest continues to succeed.
  • The Ecological Value of Cemeteries and Historical Places

    Moriarty, Melissa; Zborowski, Daniel; Garneau, Danielle (2018)
    Habitat loss and fragmentation is a common conservation threat in the United States. Land in urban areas is at a premium for biodiversity preservation and historic landmarks and cemeteries are green spaces that undergo limited disturbance. Historic and sacred sites, such as those designated by historical markers and listed as cemeteries often contain remnant old growth trees, native species and potentially rare or endangered flora. Old growth trees are often considered a ‘keystone structure’, providing resources that are crucial for other species and/or a ‘foundational species’, essential in forest ecosystems providing food and shelter for wildlife. These mature trees are more prone to environmental factors such as competition with invasive plants, climatic extremes, air pollution, disease/pets and habitat fragmentation, therefore it is crucial to evaluate these historical places to assess their ecosystem service roles. A rapid decline of old foundational trees will have major impacts on the ecosystem services reported in this study. Using a citizen science survey approach and the iNaturalist smartphone app, as well as i-Tree Eco software, we surveyed trees at cemeteries and various historical places in Clinton County, NY. Tree species, diameter at breast height, tree height, percent crown dieback, as well as signs of disease, and woodpecker damage were recorded. The survey found that the most common tree species were Picea abies (Norway spruce), Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust), and Picea pungens (blue spruce). Black locust sequesters the most carbon ≈ (525 kg/yr), while Norway spruce reduces runoff (≈75 m3). Annually, mature foundational trees combined annually removed ≈ 57.03 kg ($870/yr) of pollution, stored ≈ 148.7 tons ($21,300) of carbon, ≈ sequestered 1.302 tons ($186.00/yr) of carbon, and produced ≈ 3.472 tons of oxygen. Locally, Riverside Cemetery annually sequestered the most carbon (0.4 tons), produced ≈ 1.2 tons of oxygen, and stored ≈ 1.5 tons of CO2, followed by Gilliland Cemetery. Interestingly, Gilliland Cemetery was found to be a monoculture of the invasive species black locust; more research could provide insight as to ecosystem functioning prior to the invasion. Further research is needed to help provide a stronger ecological value to these historical and sacred spaces.
  • A Survey of Microplastics in Invertebrates in the Lake Champlain Basin

    Garneau, Danielle; Masterson, Riley (2018)
    The goal of this research was to determine whether microplastics (MP) were ingested by aquatic macroinvertebrates resident to Lake Champlain. We did so by quantifying and characterizing (e.g., fragment, fiber, film, foam, pellet) microplastic particulate. In more recent samples, we have dried and weighed invertebrates to better assess uptake. Preliminary wet peroxide oxidation digests were performed on aquatic invertebrates (n = 301). Invertebrate specimens were collected across two classes (Insecta, Malacostra) and 7 orders including Coleoptera, Ephemeroptera, Hemiptera, Odonata, Trichoptera, Mysida, and Amphipodae. These representative organisms are an important part of the lake food web, serving as preferred food for higher vertebrates including fish and waterfowl. Aquatic macroinvertebrates in our sample possess unique feeding methods, such as filter feeding, scraping, piercing, shredding, scavenging, collecting/gathering, and predation. Our research indicated that fibers were the most common microplastic type uptaken by invertebrates. Preliminary results suggest that, Hydropsyche, a filter-feeding insect digested, the greatest mean number of MP’s (n=3). Lake Champlain macroinvertebrates contained on average 0.36 microplastic particles. There are limited reports of microplastics uptaken in aquatic invertebrates and this research provides baseline information for a guild that will be involved in trophic transfer. Results from this research serve to inform residents of the Lake Champlain watershed, anglers, non-profit lake organizations, as well as public health and government officials of the risks microplastics pose to aquatic biota and ultimately humans.

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